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Before It's News | People Powered News

Before It's News | People Powered News

Before It's News | People Powered News

TRAIL TALES: Much ado about ghost stories in Shakespeare

SHAKESPEARE, New Mexico -- Janaloo Hill and her husband, Manny Hough, make up the town of Shakespeare's entire population these days.  They say that on some nights, three murdered miners known as Los Negros walk along the railroad tracks through this dusty ghost town just south of Lordsburg. 

Never mind that the railroad tracks are long gone. Ghosts don't bother with details.  They say that sometimes, just at twilight, the Lady in Black walks through the walls of the Stratford Hotel here. Ghosts don't bother with doors either. 

And on some nights - windy nights, as it so happens - they say that over at the mail station you can hear the moaning of a man tortured to death 140 years ago.  There are other things too. Not stories so much as just things.

Hough recalled the phenomenon they named the sulphur fire ghost.  "Just for no reason at all, you'd smell sulphur - like someone had just struck a match," he said.

Shakespeare was founded in the 1850s as Mexican Springs, a stagecoach and watering stop on the immigrant trail to California. After a silver strike in the 1870s, it grew to 3,000 people and perhaps as many as 200 buildings. 

Today only five structures dating back to the frontier period are still standing in Shakespeare, but most of them have ghost stories to go with them. Decades of attacks by American Indians, gunfights, desperation and greed are bound to leave some restless spirits behind. Some more here than there. 

"The Grant House has very few ghosts associated with it," Hill said as she gazed at the adobe and rock structure that was the town's stagecoach station. "Which is odd, because men were hanged there." Hill heard stories of "people looking in the windows at the Grant House and seeing bodies swaying in the air."

Los Negros were three mine owners - black men or very dark men - murdered during the 1920s for the payroll money they were carrying. Their bodies were said to have been dumped in a mine shaft.  "People who were children here then heard the story of the killings whispered by adults," Hill said.

The story of the Lady in Black - sometimes it's the Lady in White - comes from Joe Woods, who drove the horse-drawn taxi to Shakespeare in the 1880s. In the 1940s, Woods told Rita Hill about the mysterious woman who came here in search of a lost love.  "Joe said she was very beautiful and that she always wore black when he saw her - a trim, ladylike black," Janaloo Hill recalled. "He said she was looking for a particular man and she stayed here a number of days."

After the woman learned that her man had been killed by Indians in Mexico, she just disappeared, leaving her belongings in the hotel.  "They couldn't find her or her body," Hill said. "But after that, people talked about seeing a woman walking down the street at twilight and going through the wall of the Stratford Hotel."

Shakespeare's mail house was built in the 1850s as part of an Army mail relay line. According to the story, three men were living there in the 1860s.  Hill said one of the men was killed by Indians and another, a Southern sympathizer, was tortured to death by Union troops that passed through here during the Civil War. It's supposed to be the ghost of the latter that people have heard groaning here on windy nights.  The third man lived on at the mail house for a long time - at least into the 1880s when Emma Muir moved here as a child.  Muir, who lived until 1959, visited often with the Hills in Shakespeare. She told them that on the inside of a shutter of the mail house the old man had written a full account of what had happened here during the Civil War.

"Mrs. Muir said the man had a very long beard and he used to show her and the other kids what he had written," Hill recalled. "When she visited, she would come look at the shutter and try to remember what he had written there. She said if she could just see a little of it, maybe she could remember most of it."

Stories don't really stay lost in Shakespeare. They may change, grow, get better - but not get lost.

In April 1997, a tragic fire burned an old general merchandise store building right down to the basement, destroying a large and invaluable historic collection displayed there.  "Since the fire, I haven't had the spirit to tell ghost stories about the merchandise building," said Janaloo Hill.

She and Hough made their home in that building. It was there, in the years before the fire, that they experienced a phenomenon they called the 'sulphur fire ghost.' "Just for no reason at all, you'd smell sulphur - like someone had struck a match."

The historic ghost town of Shakespeare is about 300 miles southwest of Albuquerque.  To get there from Albuquerque, drive south on I-25 until you reach the N.M. 26 exit between Truth or Consequences and Las Cruces. Follow N.M. 26 southwest through Hatch to Deming, get on I-10 at Deming and follow it west to Lordsburg. At Lordsburg, take the Main Street exit off I-10 and follow signs two miles south to Shakespeare. --excerpted from Haunted America Update

America's Ghost Hunters

Scary noises: auditory paraphenomena and EVPs.
An excerpt: When I was a teen, I woke from a sound sleep at a little past three in the morning. I could see perfectly into my room because the full moon's light was shining in through the window. I heard someone come up the stairs and go into the bathroom at the end of the hall. Then, though I was certain that the person I had heard was still in the bathroom, I heard a single knock on my bedroom door.
 
I called, "Who is it?" There was no answer, but the knock came again as I heard the person in the bathroom using the sink. I called again, "Who is it?" No answer again, but I could see the doorknob turning slowly. -- Sounds in the Dark

Sťance: A Round Table Discussion

A small group of people are sitting at a round table, holding hands, and somewhere in the group sits the medium, invoking the spirit of someone from beyond the grave.

The typical Hollywood sťance. But where did the idea come from and how does it work?

Attempting communication with the dead is an idea that is as old as humans themselves, but it would be on March 31, 1848, that two young girls in Hydesville, New York would start an actual movement of spirit communication.

The actual word "sťance" comes from the French sťance meaning "seat, session," and from the Old French seoir meaning "to sit." The term was briefly used to mean a gathering of a legislative body, but around the mid-1800s it was adopted as a term to describe communication with spirits.

For the full article at Ghostvillage:

Higher Minds Radio with Jeffrey Wands

What is a 'Ghost'?
Jane Doherty's Ghost Investigations
Why do Ghosts haunt?

Science and Spirit
Science and Spirit

Researchers, Mediums Study Communication with the Dead

In mid-June of 1999, Gary Schwartz, psychology professor and co-founder of the University of Arizona Human Energy Systems Lab, conducted research involving some of the most famous mediums in the world.

What happens to consciousness after death is one of the most important questions a scientist can ask, according to Schwartz. The team of scientists and students conducted a unique experiment based on the "Russek paradigm," probing the possibility of an afterlife by studying how mediums communicate with the dead.

A panel of four mediums was invited to participate in the study, including famous "superstars" of the psychic world such as author John Edwards, and unknowns such as California homemaker Laurie Campbell. The mediums met with 10 people whose loved ones recently died and tried to receive information from the deceased without prior knowledge about the deceased and while under observation.

The research design, dubbed by Schwartz the "Russek paradigm," was mostly the work of the lab's co-founder Linda Russek. The experiment consisted of a medium, who sat facing a wall, while a researcher looked on. A "sitter," who had recently lost a relative or friend, would then enter the room and sit six feet behind the medium.

For up to 10 minutes, the medium and the sitter would sit in silence. The medium, who could not see the sitter, would concentrate on receiving psychic impressions. A question and answer session followed, in which the sitter was allowed only to answer "yes" or "no." Schwartz said that the mediums did not play "20 questions" with the sitter in an attempt to weed out personal information. Instead, they tried to get confirmatory information to clarify impressions they were receiving.

Schwartz said that the study was set up to minimize communication between the medium and the sitter, avoiding conscious or subconscious prompting between the two. However, a problem that could be damaging to the validity of the experiment's conclusions, Schwartz acknowledged, was that a few of the sitters were acquaintances of the mediums.

"It's complicated to determine what is psychological and what is spiritual," Schwartz said.

Schwartz said he was impressed with the mediums' performance. On several occasions the mediums were able to pick out the names and personal information of the deceased, he said.

There were also several "jawdroppers" when the mediums revealed highly personal information or facts so obscure that the sitters themselves didn't know them. In one case, the medium revealed that the sitter had an uncle who had been killed during World War II. The sitter hadn't known about the uncle, but later confirmed the story with relatives, Schwartz said. In other cases, the mediums were able to pick up facts such as the breed of a long-dead pet, he said.

The success of the mediums often depended on the sitters and their belief in life after death. All the mediums were able to get good information while working with a woman who had lost six loved ones in the past nine years, Schwartz said.

The best sitter was a UA undergraduate who had lost two relatives but felt connected to them, he said.

The worst sitter was a man who called himself a skeptic, Schwartz said, adding that none of the mediums could connect with his deceased relatives.

The researchers have noticed a link between belief and performance in other tests.

Gary Mechler, an astronomy instructor at Pima Community College and co-founder of the Tucson Skeptics, is not convinced by such stories. Mechler is a local representative of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP); an organization of scientists he said is "ready to strike out for truth and light at a moments notice."

"I've seen so many stories fall apart," Mechler said. He said that professional mediums are very skilled at misleading the public.

"It isn't really paranormal phenomena," said Patty Harada, one of Schwartz's assistants. "We are really trying to study energy."

"The energy from our bodies is actually going somewhere," she said. "It's actually doing something."

Many of the researchers expressed similar beliefs, and Schwartz added that a person's energy might survive after death.

Schwartz admits that the research into human energy systems is in beginning stages, and that many details remain a mystery. Schwartz insists that such claims need to be investigated scientifically.

"Is it proof? Of course not," Schwartz said. "Is it interesting? Definitely." -- Edited excerpts of a story by Sean McLachlan, Arizona Daily Wildcat

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  • Dybbuk Exorcism Raises Social Questions
  • Scientists Say Haunting's Real, Ghosts Aren't
  • Psychologist Bids to Create Scientific Haunted House
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